‘Making people feel included doesn’t mean you have to stay silent’ – Olympic race-walker Tom Bosworth on LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport

Tom Bosworth ()

To mark Pride Month 2023, the Alliance spoke with Olympic race walker and British record holder Tom Bosworth, one of very few openly gay athletes in the United Kingdom to have competed at the highest level of their sport.

In a wide-ranging interview, Tom discussed his feelings towards Pride Month, his work as part of the England Athletics Pride Network, and what people and organisations can do to ensure sport is an inclusive, welcoming place for all.

Watch a clip from the interview below, and find parts one, two and three further down the article.

While praising the progress made over the last few years in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport, Tom was keen to emphasise that much more needs to be done in the future to ensure that everyone feels truly welcomed.

“Pride Month for me is really important for raising awareness, and I feel like it’s become more than just talking about LGBT issues and seeing how we can make a real difference. I’m more about taking the next step now, and how we can use Pride Month to galvanise what we do day-to-day, 365 days a year.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress over the last 10 years, but I worry we’re at a tricky point right now, where social media doesn’t really help, or mainstream media. Are we just doing tick box exercises and have people lost the meaning behind the messages so they’re not really getting through or are understood? Often people are now taking it as ‘this is Pride Month, we’re just going to have a lot of flags on social media’, and making half-hearted efforts, which I hope isn’t the case – and I don’t think it is for a lot of people, but we need to stay clear of that.”

Tom also offered his thoughts on the changes individuals and organisations can make to help the LGBTQ+ community feel more welcomed:

“Some people are always nervous about saying the wrong thing or upsetting somebody. We are in a generation and a world right now where more and more people respond like that; however, that doesn’t need to take away from the important messages we get across – the facts, the figures. How we make everyone feel included is by having these conversations. They’re not always going to be easy, and not everyone’s always going to like them either – that’s why we’re so diverse.

“This Pride Month I would love to see governing bodies, or sports clubs – whatever level you’re at – just to do some outreach. What I mean by that is just go and speak to your members or your athletes and get their opinion. Find out who you have in your club, learn about those individuals, and then go from there. Then you know who you have in your club, how you can support them, and you can educate people as to why you’re supporting them in that way.

“People are so desperate to be inclusive, be seen as inclusive, and then not really act any further than that. However, if you know who is in your group, who is in your club, suddenly your arsenal is a lot fuller, and you can go and really take care of them.”

Tom Bosworth 2 ()

In the last few years, Tom has also been involved with the England Athletics Pride Network, and praised the sport for the work it had done around LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

“I was part of the Athletics Pride Network, which launched just before COVID, and we were one of the first sports governing bodies to do that, and that was really powerful. Athletics is just so diverse – we have so many different events in one sport that it is so welcoming, and if you’re going to be part of a team at a higher or lower level, you’re going to have to be accepting of people from all sorts of walks of life, because that’s what this sport brings in. That’s why I’m really proud of our sport.”

Finally, although he’s aware that these conversations will still be going on in five years’ time, Tom outlined his hope for progress.

“Do I think we’ll be having this conversation in five years’ time? Yes. But I hope it’s very different, because these conversations need to keep happening, and we need to explain why, so we don’t revert back to times when you could be punished for who you love. It’s a great thing to celebrate how far we’ve come, and hopefully they are the conversations we’ll be having in five years’ time.”

The Alliance would like to thank Tom for being so generous with his time and wish everyone a happy Pride Month 2023.

For resources around LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport and recreation, take a look at our Inclusivity Hub.